From Sam Collins in Perth
Close: third Test, day three, Perth
Match score: England 81-5 (Harris 2-22, Johnson 2-28) and 187 (Bell 53, Strauss 52, Johnson 6-38) trail Australia 268 (Hussey 61, Haddin 53, Johnson 62; Anderson 3-61, Tremlett 3-63) and 309 (Hussey 116, Watson 95) by 31o runs with five wickets remaining
Session score: Australia 12-2, England 81-5 Australia win
Session in six words: Aussies rout sorry England once more
Food has been a feature of the day. “For a tall guy Steve Finn bowls a poor bouncer, it comes out like a blancmange”, said Geoff Lawson on commentary this morning. This afternoon Matthew Hayden was in the box, almost insufferable in his new role as the bastard lovechild of Jamie Oliver and Ian Chappell,“I love food, I love life actually. I love the celebration of food. I love Christmas because it is a festival of food and a festival of cricket.” Haydos’ two main subjects were cooking Xmas dinner and cooking England, which might amount to the same thing as they have played like turkeys in Perth.
It doesn’t feel like Christmas here. Partly because it’s 35 degrees and partly because there’s nothing festive about being thumped. And England have been thumped today, thumped as in outplayed. Not just Mitchell Johnson this time – Shane Watson and Mike Hussey were too good this morning, Johnson, Ryan Harris and Ben Hilfenhaus just too tempting this evening.
England have played brainless cricket. The bowling lacked discipline in the first two sessions – too short too often – Andrew Strauss too keen to make his seamers switch plans while not using his spinner – Graeme Swann bowling nine overs in the innings.
It’s been worse with the bat, England in trouble from the moment Harris skidded a straight one into Alastair Cook’s pads in the seventh over. No one expected England to chase 391, even though South Africa chased 414 here two years ago but to even get halfway would require an improvement from the first innings – batsmen decisive in defence and attack and selective about what balls they played at. A close of play score of 81 for 5 tells you how that went.
The captain set the tone of confusion. Something about playing in Australia seems to cause Strauss’s brain to overheat more regularly than in other conditions, even before he went he had slashed wildly at a couple of wide ones from Johnson. His dismissal was more sedate if no less frustrating, pushing at a decent Johnson delivery that you fancy Mike Hussey would have left alone. Ricky Ponting took a homing missile at second slip.
Enter Kevin Pietersen, seemingly unsure how he was cast in this unfolding disaster. Off the mark with a pull, he went into his shell and had faced 23 balls for 3 before he groped inexplicably at Harris. A duck and now 3 – it was Pietersen’s worst aggregate match for England in games he had batted twice, the game after his highest Test score.
Jonathan Trott batted better for 31 but then fenced at another wide one from Johnson – the type of ball that England had left so well from him in Brisbane. Ponting parried that one to Haddin before leaving the field with an injured finger but the damage had been done to England. Johnson only found a little of the swing of the first innings but looked almost as dangerous. Tough times ahead.
Collingwood’s departure from the last ball of the day was the final insult, edging to slip after a stay where it was difficult to tell whether he or James Anderson were the nightwatchman. Collingwood’s last great contribution to English cricket may be the catch to dismiss Ponting on the first day.
England have to pull themselves together quickly. They have gone from a tight, controlled unit to a rabble in the space of a few days. The truth is still somewhere in the middle – they cannot be as good as they were at Adelaide all the time but they would hope never to be as bad as they have been here. Australia have had the better players at the crucial times. Johnson on day two, Hussey and Watson today. For England, only Tremlett and Bell emerge with credit to this point. England threw Tremlett to the press this evening, a remarkable abdication of responsibility from Strauss and Andy Flower on a day when so much has gone wrong.
The great thing is that we have what we English slightly patronisingly wanted at the start of this game – a proper match here and can now look forward to a proper end of the series in Melbourne and Sydney.
Sitting next to me the Editor noted the similarities to 2003, when South Africa and principally Graeme Smith had feasted on England in the first two Tests of the English summer, only for England to come back strong. That series finished 2-2. At this very moment England would snap your hand off for that.
Sam Collins is TWC‘s man in Australia and will be blogging on TWC andsampsoncollins.wordpress.com throughout the Ashes
Read more on the Ashes:
What the Aussie press said on day two: columns of conviction
Benj Moorehead feels the joy in England’s pain
John Stern at Perth takes a walk round the ground and triggers wickets
The second day from Perth session-by-session
Why it’s good for English players and Anderson to go home
The real Australian selection policy: Alex Bowden
Aussie press round up, day one: columns of conviction
The A-to-Z of the Australian cricket in 2010 by Alan Tyers